B-233397, Apr 27, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 424

B-233397: Apr 27, 1990

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Permanently transferred to the place where he was on a temporary duty assignment. The employee is entitled to en route per diem and mileage expenses for the round-trip since relocation travel by privately owned vehicle is deemed advantageous to the government under the Federal Travel Regulations. For the following reasons we hold that the employee is entitled to payment of mileage and per diem expenses for the actual round-trip travel en route between the new and old duty stations by privately owned vehicle without regard to the cost of travel by common carrier. Stockbridge was transferred from Redding. Stockbridge was already in Washington on a temporary training detail with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

B-233397, Apr 27, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 424

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Travel expenses - Privately-owned vehicles - Mileage CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Travel expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility An employee, permanently transferred to the place where he was on a temporary duty assignment, returned to his old duty station by privately owned vehicle to retrieve stored household goods. The employee is entitled to en route per diem and mileage expenses for the round-trip since relocation travel by privately owned vehicle is deemed advantageous to the government under the Federal Travel Regulations, para. 2-2.3a.

James R. Stockbridge:

Mr. Roy E. Morris, Certifying Officer, Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Department of the Interior, requests a decision concerning the claim of Mr. James R. Stockbridge, an OSM employee, for expenses incurred during a trip to his old official duty station to make moving arrangements. For the following reasons we hold that the employee is entitled to payment of mileage and per diem expenses for the actual round-trip travel en route between the new and old duty stations by privately owned vehicle without regard to the cost of travel by common carrier.

BACKGROUND

In late summer of 1988, Mr. Stockbridge was transferred from Redding, California to Washington, D.C. At the time of his transfer, Mr. Stockbridge was already in Washington on a temporary training detail with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Upon notice of his temporary duty assignment, Mr. Stockbridge stated that he sold his residence in California, placed part of his household goods in storage, and transferred his family to Washington, all at his own expense. After arriving in Washington he then flew back to Redding at his own expense to retrieve his personal vehicle, the use of which the agency had approved at his temporary duty station. Mr. Stockbridge's travel authorization for his temporary duty assignment included approval for round-trip travel via privately owned vehicle. Accordingly, Mr. Stockbridge received payment for mileage and per diem for his return trip to Washington.

After Mr. Stockbridge had been permanently assigned to Washington, the agency issued a travel authorization to Mr. Stockbridge to allow him to return to Redding to make final moving arrangements for his stored household goods. The travel authorization did not indicate mode of travel, but included an estimate for travel by common carrier and per diem expenses. Mr. Stockbridge traveled by privately owned vehicle to Redding, retrieved his household goods in storage, and returned to Washington.

On his travel voucher he claimed mileage and per diem costs for the trip. However, the agency certified payment only of the cost of round trip common carrier from Washington to Redding and taxi expenses. Mr. Stockbridge, on his reclaim voucher, is claiming reimbursement for the difference between the mileage and per diem costs he originally claimed and the amount certified for payment by the agency.

OPINION

We have previously held that employees on temporary duty at a place which has become their permanent duty station are entitled to the relocation expenses authorized by 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724 and 5724a (1988). Further, such employees may be reimbursed for round-trip travel expenses from the new permanent station to the old permanent station for purposes of relocating their family or transporting their household effects to the new duty station. See Dr. Tommye Cooper, B-213742, Aug. 5, 1985; Steven F. Kinsler, B-169392, Oct. 28, 1976; NOAA Ship DISCOVERER, B-167022, July 12, 1976. The question we are presented with here is whether an agency may restrict reimbursement for mileage and per diem to the cost of travel by common carrier when an employee uses a privately owned vehicle for such relocation travel.

Paragraph 2-2.3a of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) /1/ provides in pertinent part:

"a. When an employee, with or without an immediate family, who is eligible for travel allowances under 2-1.2 and 2-1.5, uses a privately owned automobile for permanent change of station travel, that use is deemed to be advantageous to the government. ..."

In Dominic D. D'Abate, 63 Comp.Gen. 2 (1983), we held that where the applicable regulations prescribe that travel by a privately owned vehicle is deemed advantageous to the government, the employee is entitled to be reimbursed on that basis despite a clause in his travel orders purporting to limit his reimbursement to the cost of travel by common carrier. Therefore, FTR, para. 2-2.3a clearly establishes use of a privately owned vehicle for permanent change of station travel as being advantageous to the government and allows no discretion by agency officials to conclude otherwise. See also Paul S. Begnaud, B-214610, Feb. 19, 1985.

In this case, Mr. Stockbridge's round-trip travel from Washington to Redding for purposes of transporting his household effects constituted relocation travel by privately owned vehicle. Thus, FTR, para. 2-2.3a governs reimbursement for Mr. Stockbridge's use of his privately owned vehicle for that travel. Accordingly, Mr. Stockbridge's method of travel must be considered as advantageous to the government, and the common carrier estimates on his travel order purporting to limit his reimbursement are not controlling. See Dominic D. D'Abate, 63 Comp.Gen. at 3.

Mr. Stockbridge's reclaim voucher should be processed in accordance with the above.